|Jake Butt gaining from tutelage of Funchess|
Written by Adam Biggers
Say the name “Jake Butt” and Devin Funchess lights up with interest. Say the name “Devin Funchess” and Jake Butt may tell a humorous story about his Friday roommate.
The bond between the sophomore and freshman was quite obvious during Tuesday’s post-practice gathering at Al Glick Fieldhouse. Words explained their friendship, but body language and facial expressions did most of the talking.
The pair realizes that Team 134 is in a lull—sitting at 6-3 (2-3) and essentially out of the Big Ten championship race. However, instead of stewing on the negative after losing two straight, the underclassmen have chosen to adopt more productive measures.
For them, it’s all about improvement, encouragement and embracing challenges.
“He’s great,” Funchess responded when asked about Butt’s progression. “He caught on fast like me … To me, he’s a great receiver. We played the same type of things in high school. I just try to tell him, ‘Jake, it’s going to come. Do what you can while you’re on the field.’”
Funchess isn’t a stranger to auditions. As a freshman in 2012, the 6-5, 235-pounder made his presence known during his “debut,” raking in four catches for 106 yards and a touchdown during Michigan’s 31-25 victory over the Air Force in Week 2.
Taking on a more diverse role as a wide receiver this season, Funchess proved to be one of the Big Ten’s top underclassmen with seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown during Michigan’s 42-13 bouncing of Minnesota. He followed up that parade with four catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns during a 43-40 4OT loss to Penn State.
Funchess doesn’t mind praising teammates, especially his good friend, but he’s also been pleased by personal strides.
“I came into college a little undersized,” he said. “So, really, I think I’m ahead because I’m still doing a lot to help the team. And with the learning of the two positions, I think I’m ahead of what I really thought [I’d be now] coming into college.”
His story sounds familiar. Butt entered school at 209 pounds. He’s now up to 245.
“Jake came in a skinny little fella,” laughed Funchess, clearly relating to his teammates’ strife.
But Funchess bounced back, gained weight and shot up the depth chart. His line of 35 catches for 623 yards and five touchdowns is second only to that of Jeremy Gallon, a senior. Butt, who has nine catches on the year for 97 yards, hopes to experience a Funchess-like jump from his freshman to sophomore year.
“I think that’s what helps the team become great, when you have guys who push each other and want to compete,” Butt said. “I just look up to Devin as an athlete and as a player. He’s always making plays—and that’s where I want to be one day.
“He’s definitely a weapon on the field, and a great guy off the field.”
1-on-1 with Devin Funchess
On team and personal obstacles: “I try to just put it behind me. I know that I’m not the perfect player. Nobody’s a perfect player. You’re going to make a mistake here and there. If it’s you or somebody else making the mistake, just learn from it and try to do better on the next play.”
On Gardner’s confidence and health: “He’s feeling banged up. He’s working through that and doing as much as he can to get us the ball and the running backs the ball … he’s trying his best to fight through those injuries that he has.”
On offense: “I don’t think we’re all the way there yet … just getting into [Al] Borges’ plans now.”
On moving past losses to MSU and Nebraska: “With me, I don’t like losses. I just kind of throw them in the back of my head and focus on what’s next to come.”
Parting words from Jake Butt
“The best things are ahead. We’ve got a lot of weapons—not only at the tight end position, but the offense as a whole.
“We know if we play 11 men together, no one can beat us. … If we get 11 guys together, we’ll show the country what we can really do.”
Follow Maize and Blue News contributor Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81